Me and My Droid

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Hardware

It’s been about 8 months since I picked up my HTC Droid Incredible Smartphone.

At the time I had a BlackBerry Storm. I picked it up because my boss and manager both owned one and I thought it would be both cool and useful. But what I found with the Storm was just a mobile, yet expensive way to read my email and attempt to browse the Internet. Its tactile response screen was a good idea, but was cumbersome trying to use the on-screen keyboard. Its typing suggestions and corrections where pretty awful as well. The apps I downloaded where basically used to try and make it run better. The worst part is I had to physically remove the battery each day to make it run correctly. The techs over at Verizon made some tweaks to help, but told me this was the norm. At the time though, this was about the best fully touch-screen Smart Phone on the market. Android was just some awful  alternative that I don’t think Verizon even offered at the time. But that soon changed.

After Android matured a little and made its way to version 2.1 I became very interested in the HTC Droid Incredible. I went in to NFM and played with it the next day after it was released. After 15 minutes I made up my mind to slap down the $300 (minus $100 mail-in rebate) w/ a new 2-year contract – yes – because it was incredible.

No longer did I have to wait 5 minutes for the phone to boot, the tactile feedback was pretty cool, and the word suggestions and auto-fixes where awesome. Plus it was thinner and lighter.

Because it was so new, NFM did not have the proper software to move my BlackBerry’s data over. So I was dreading having to re-enter all the phonebook entries. However, to my surprise, after I entered my Google account info and synced it up to my Facebook account, 3/4 of all the contacts I needed where instantly there – with photos of everyone! Very cool.

The one huge downside I first noticed was the battery only lasted a few hours. Researching this a little, this appeared to be the norm. After a few days of charging on and off, the battery started lasting a full day under normal use. Since then, however, I’ve invested in a spare extended battery with external charge for the days that go beyond normal use. I really wish the battery situation was much better, but it does well most days.

Along comes my introduction to “real” apps…

Google Navigation

This, besides the actual phone feature, has to be the best feature of the phone. Now I don’t need a separate GPS unit in my vehicle (of which someone broke my window and grabbed my first and only one). Instead I can now long-press one button and literally tell it to “Navigate to Starbucks” and it will take me to the closest Starbucks turn-by-turn with voice and 3-D graphics. If I miss my street it will re-route. There’s also no need to buy a new map each year, as it’s all constantly updated. When you get to your destination it will even tell you it’s on your right or left and provide a photo of your destination just to make sure you’re at the right place. Perfect for picking up items posted on Craig’s List!

Google Maps

Probably the next best app after Google Navigation would have to be Google Maps. I can easily lookup an address and zoom in/out on it to figure out where exactly it is in the city. Other cool features include 3-D building modeling and map view all controlled by your gestures plus street view! I can even have it map out directions from here to there and points in between. With the latest version, it’s really slick and quick!

Twitter

I’ve become a more and more avid Twitter user for work-related purposes over the past year. The phone comes with “Friend Stream” and “Peep” but those just never really gave me what I “needed”. So I installed the official app from Twitter and it works great.

Facebook

I’ve also been an avid user of Facebook for a number of years now. “Friend Stream” also provided functionality for this but I “needed” more. So in came the Facebook app.

Foursquare

While I’m not an avid Foursquare user, I will from time-to-time check-in at places; especially tech events. It’s interesting to see who else might be there and the tips provided by other users in the past or current.

Angry Birds

This is the one game I play on my phone. I installed it about a month ago and have gotten quite far. It’s very entertaining and requires a little strategy.

K-9 Mail

I replaced the built-in mail app with K-9 Mail for a few different reasons. Primarily I wanted different notification options for each mail account. For example I wanted to have my work email accessible but not notify me of every new message. I also wanted to have a distinct and noticeable notification sound for the account I used to receive critical email from work such as a server went down. The one drawback to email on this phone versus the BlackBerry is BlackBerry pushed email to you, so it was instant. This phone must poll email on a set schedule. I set the critical account to every 15 minutes. Anymore frequent and there would just be too frequent active processing on the phone draining the battery.

Handcent SMS

With the included SMS app, I ran into an issue where when my sisters send me those stupid but interesting animated pics it would automatically go away too quickly. So I installed this as an alternative that works a little better. I also like the iPhone type bubbles you can choose as the theme.

Yahoo Messenger

I use Yahoo Messenger on a regular basis to communicate with family, friends, and up until recently work. When not logged in I get the messages via my SMS, but this makes it much cleaner and faster when I’m on the go and need a lengthier chat.

Scanner Radio

After a friend of mine was caught in a classroom during a high-school shooting recently, I found this app that would have been helpful to get information faster. This app allows me to scan police and fire radio communications right on my phone in near real-time. I’m also a Firefighter/EMT, so some other events also peak my interest and I like to listen in.

Google Voice Search

This has to be one of top favorite apps. I have the long-press search button programmed to bring this up. I long-press the button and it prompts me for voice. I can say things like “Navigate to Aksarben Cinima” or “Call Mark Kruger” or “Send Text to Laddy Gagga I can’t wait to see you at concert!” and it has about 80% accuracy and should be learning over time to my voice and needs.

There are plenty other apps installed on my phone, some crapware that I can’t uninstall thanks for Verizon, but the above are probably the most used and notable that I might recommend checking into if they peak your interest.

One thing I really like is the “smart virtual keyboard”. The screen is too small not the thumb-up a message. But the keyboard does a great job of figuring out what I really want to type. Another great feature is the notification area on top of the screen letting me know subject lines of emails or letting me know the status of a downloading app along with the normal battery, signal and time statuses.

On the topic of browsing the Internet I’m very happy. Most full websites display as intended. I can also double tap the screen and it will adjust the zoom to handle a container of text to read automatically. Using gestures I can easily zoom in and out and scroll up-down-left-right as needed very rapidly. Most video is a little jerky but if it’s from YouTube I can load it full screen into the YouTube app and that works fantastic!

For taking pictures and video, most of it’s pretty clear. However photos can easily be blurred/streaked if I don’t have a steady hand.

Overall I’m very happy with my phone and have even been able to tweak my phone bill to the sub-$100 range. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Android line and look forward to seeing what the competition may bring to the table.

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